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Museum design
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This is the winning design created by architect Daniel Van Der Laat to become the new home for the Museo de Jade.

Design revealed for new downtown museum building
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The proposed new structure for the Museo del Jade will feature special rooms dedicated to Costa Rican archaeology and a space for the jade, the stone that pre-Columbian residents considered sacred. This new area will serve as a protection of country history, said the minister of culture Thursday during a press conference at the downtown location for the museum.

President Laura Chinchilla joined in the festivities. She was accompanied onstage by the minister, Manuel Obregón, and Guillermo Constenla Umaña, executive director of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros.

The new building will be located on the west side of the Museo Nacional and the Plaza de la Democracia. Now it is in the first floor corner of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros headquarters on Avenida 7.

According to an outline of the new structure, the various display areas will conform to the various regions of the country where distinct cultures evolved. Archaeologist generally consider the culture that inhabited the Caribbean coast and into the Central Valley as a people with contact to what is now South America. The northern Pacific culture was part of the sprawling Mayan and later Aztec empires. Then there was the culture in southwestern Costa Rica that created the enigmatic giant stone balls.

Obregon said he was happy to finally have a space to display the 6,881-piece collection. Because of lack of space in the current location the museum only exhibits 1,355 pieces. There are more than 5,000
pieces locked in storage and hidden to the public. He said this will allow for a better understanding to the country's native history.

“To invest in the culture is to invest in the people,” said Obregón.

A competition was held among national architects to design the new museum building. The winner will have the work constructed into reality and become a part of national history. Plus the winner receives a check for 15 million colons, approximately $30,000. President Chinchilla referred to the 47 entries as an explosion of creativity. She said making a decision was difficult. The winner is Daniel Van Der Laat.
His building is supposed to resemble a rock divided in half, he said. It will open into the Plaza de la Democracia.

The split in the building will allow a lot of light and illumination because of mass windows he said. The site is just south of Avenida Central in an area that officials hope will become a museum corridor.

The new museum building is paid for by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros. It was a project that began in 2008 and has finally begun to progress said Constela. The cost is estimated at about $7 million.

Former president Óscar Arias Sánchez initiated the project. He was also at the ceremony Thursday morning. According to Constenla, there is no contractor hired yet.

The expected new home for the Museum of Jade is supposed to have construction completed and ready for the public by the end of 2013. 

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Human rights race Sunday
seeks a halt to violence

By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Droves of participants are expected to run in the Race for Human Rights Sunday in Goicoechea to exposition grounds  east of the stadium Colleya Fonseca in Guadalupe starting at 9 a.m. The starting point is near the municipal building.

The theme is Alto a la Violencia, Unidos por Costa Rica, or “ Stop the Violence, United for Costa Rica.”

There is a 7,000 colon fee that includes a trophy, T-shirt, water. Some 10 percent of the money goes to the organization Fundacion para la Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos. The distance is just short of 10 kilometers, about 6.2 miles.

The race is put together by that foundation and sponsored by different organizations and businesses, including Hotel California, owned by human rights activist Roberta Felix. The hotel is in Manuel Antonio.

The California native and now Costa Rican resident has lived in Costa Rica for 12 years. Since her arrival she said she has incessantly worked non-stop with human rights organizations. She started a non-profit organization to also sponsor the human rights walk in the Municipalidad de Goicoechea north of San José. There is nothing she wouldn't do to help victims in Costa Rica, especially those who are victims of sexual abuse and human trafficking she said.

Ms. Felix ran a non-profit for disabled children in Manuel Antonio where she said she was able to help rescue three handicapped children who were sexually abused in their home. The organization is no longer active because it lacked donations she said. Since the Ministerio de Educación Pública began to provide help to handicapped children, the mission of the organization became harder to accomplish, she said. The foundation still exists, but now it functions to support other human rights organizations, she added.

Although Ms. Felix is the owner of a Manuel
Antonio hotel,  she also has a place in the Central Valley. She said she stays in the Quepos-Manuel Antonio area to better help those victims in a location she referred to as corrupt. In January the mayor of Garabito was accused of corruption, funding child pornography, and driving around children in government cars for prostitution. He is awaiting trial. Garabito is the canton in which Quepos and Manuel Antonio are located.

Ms. Felix said she came to the country to volunteer and help others. She said she has been threatened because of her work.
Costa Rica has a system that is broken, not complicated, and it needs to be fixed, said Felix.

Find out what the papers
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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 23, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 60
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Weather experts try to chart climate changes for next 40 years
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Weather experts are predicting that rain on the Caribbean coast will increase between 35 and 75 percent during some months of the year because of higher temperatures over the next 40 years.
They also predict that rain in the northern Pacific will decline by about 15 percent.

In addition they are predicting a longer break in the rainy season in the Central Valley and the Pacific coast from June to August.

These predictions come from the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional and the U.N. Programme for Development.

The estimates were made to help the country cope with the impact of higher temperatures that are anticipated by a change in climate.

A.M. Costa Rica has reported on other studies that predict a rise in sea level over the next century.
This latest study predicts heavier rains in Limón, Matina, Guácimo and Pococí from May to July with the possibility of flooding.

In the central region and on the Pacific, the prediction is for drier conditions, perhaps drought, on the Pacific coast in locations such as Parrita, and in León Cortés, Dota and Tarrazú. The dry conditions are expected to extend from January to August while from September until December there will be heavier rain and flooding.

The predictions are extrapolations of the current weather conditions linked with a number of computer models of world climate. Scientists have said that with higher temperatures the atmosphere will pickup more water that eventually has to be deposited as rain.

President Laura Chinchilla went so far as to blame the First World and the industrial revolution for a tropical depression that ravaged much of Central America last October.

Korean video crew faces the nightmare of all photographers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Korean video crew working for National Geographic somehow lost a gray case containing a Canon camera. The case also contains much of their work that they already had taped about the wonders of Costa Rica.

Now they wonder if they will get back the case.

The Poder Judicial put out a courtesy notice about the situation Thursday and said there will be a reward in dollars for recovery of the case, camera and material.
The incident took place near San Isidro de Poás in a site known as  La Chaparra. The crew had been in the area taping the volcano and surroundings.

The case carries the words National Geographic, said the Poder Judicial.

The value of the footage is far greater than the value of the camera, the Poder Judicial said.

Any information can be telephoned to the Judicial Investigating Organization at 2437-0342, 2220-3160 or 800-8000-645.

Stealing away to a McSomething that passes for a McMuffin
There are times when the outside world is too much with me.  But instead of turning off the TV and refusing to read the news, I natter and voice my opinions of what I think has been overlooked, as piddling as they may be.

Let me start with the concern in Massachusetts over the plan in one school to give condoms to 12 year olds.  Parents are upset and don’t even want the subject of sex taught in the schools at such an early age.  They are blaming everyone and everything else for the fact that their children are having sex earlier and earlier.  Studies have shown that, in fact, their diets are probably just as responsible.  Estrogen is stored in fat, and fat also produces estrogen. The more fat, the more estrogen, which will bring on the first menstrual cycle.  Simply put, girls are reaching puberty and sexual awareness earlier — another side effect of our diet loaded with fat, sugar and salt so prevalent in fast foods.  Boys are happy to accommodate them.

Certain unsophisticated tribes in Africa seemed to know about fat and hormones without having to do the research.  When girls reached marriageable age, they were put in a special compound where they were given more food to fatten them up, to prepare them for marriage and child bearing.

Then there is Charles Murray, the conservative scholar who has written a much-publicized book, “Coming Apart”.  His thesis is that since the 1960s the once silent, hard-working, white lower classes are not behaving the way they used to, which was doing their best to imitate the upper classes.

He does not seem to have regressed simply to the 1950s, but to the 1850s when the rich had plenty of servants to observe their behavior and share it with their factory worker friends.  Today, he says, the elite upper classes are the well-educated intellectuals who stay married, have children within wedlock and go to church regularly.  And also are very rich. But they live in a bubble and are not aware of the lower classes, so they don’t even try to teach or demonstrate how to live.  He never mentions wage and job stagnation for the masses, or the advantage that these bubble people have taken of the working poor who strived to emulate them with buying larger homes and bigger cars.

There is another class, which my husband and I called ourselves members of: The Educated Poor.  That was years ago, but since then our numbers have increased.

Professor Murray never mentions the cultural upheavals of the 60s.  Nor does he take into account that poor working men can’t afford mistresses or an occasional call girl to keep their marriages alive and that their wives are too busy to take a lover.

However, if he is looking for someone in his elite class who can teach the lower classes how to behave, and get rich, there is someone who has even become a member of the idle rich and knows well the ropes of being a part of the elite and very, very rich.   I suggest he consider Bernie Madoff as a role model and teacher.

In the middle of my tut-tutting, I must, in full disclosure, admit that this very week I went with two friends to McDonald’s.  I am talking about the new and modern
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

McDonald’s right across from the new stadium.  I had mentioned that the one thing I remembered about McDonald’s was that I had had a McMuffin and found it very tasty.  That was about 10 years ago, but I could try it again.  James volunteered to drive me there, and Doug volunteered to keep us company.

At 8:30 in the morning, the parking lot was full, and there was a long line waiting in front of the order clerk. We found a table in the sunlight and waited a while until all of the well-fed people went off to work.

The egg in my McMuffin was fried hard and instead of the advertised sausage, there was ham.  No condiments, not even salt and pepper on the untoasted English (alias Mc) muffin.  There is a rumor, which I think I may have started, that McDonald’s puts a secret ingredient into their fast food that makes it addictive.  I withdraw that accusation.  It is okay with me if another 10 years pass before I try another breakfast there.  We all agreed the best part was sitting in the sun coming through the window.


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face painting and masks
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
Modern face painter practices on a dummy at the festival, but Korean traditional masks are another option.
Festival honored country Korea displays culture and traditions
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This year at the Festival Internacional de las Artes 2012, which ends Sunday, the country of honor was Korea. This allowed for a special closed off section in the festival assigned solely to this country. There was food, dance, music, art, crafts, literature, and workshops for those interested in a Korean experience.

The Korean space is located behind the Museo de Arte Costarricense. There is a giant, colorful sign that reads in Spanish COREA. Through the gates and to the right is a table with festival assistants who can register visitors for workshops.

Behind the signup table is a huge, white tent with custom Korean ceremonial dresses, known as hanbok, hanging from the wall. The tent is split with hanji paper art inside.

Young Le, wore a long, light yellow robe with a black top hat. Both the robe and the top hat are made out of a type of silk. He said he modeled a robe that is reserved for only high -ranking politicians. Young added that every color and design for a robe depended on the person's social status, job, and gender. He said that men and women do not wear the same robes. And children also wear a different hanbok.

And from the looks of the people in charge of the workshops, it seems as though men don't run hanji lectures. Only women were in that space. Hanji is a form of paper that is frequently used in Korea. It's not just for art, but there are also clothing items made out of the fabric-like paper. Ties, scarves, plates, wallets, fans and umbrellas are just to name a few items made from hanji, which comes from a native tree bark. According to Korean wisdom, the paper can last about 1,000 years.

The tent had lamps, masks and sculptures made out of hanji.

The Korean food stand is run by members of an association for Korean women in Costa Rica. They prepared and cooked the Korean traditional meals.

There was the better known Korean specialty of bugogi, which is red meat cooked with onions and red pepper. It was put on a skewer. Then there were mandu and japche. Mandu is pork and vegetables mixed together like a stir-fry. And japche is a pasta made out of sweet potato and vegetables.

Hajin Lee, a member of the women's association, said the difference in Korean food compared to other food is that it's harder to get the ingredients to get that special taste like in her motherland.

The organization bought about 285 kilograms of meat, which include chicken, beef, shrimp and pork, and more than 45 
Korean writing
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
Festival visitor tries her hand writing in hanjul.

kilograms of vegetables. She said it has been a great experience to introduce people to her Korean gastronomy. So far there have been no complaints to the food, only compliments, she said smiling.

Another large white tent has a spot for participants to make their own Korean ink art. This is known as hangul, also the name for the Korean alphabet. There are stamped pieces of wood where a person takes a special piece of cloth and places it on top of the wood. Then take a sponge over the cloth that has already been dipped in ink. After a few seconds the cloth begins to absorb the ink and the stamp of the design from the etched wood appears.

This station shared their space with a quick two-minute lecture on how to write a personal name in hangul.

Inside that tent was a lecture on how to paint in the sagunja Korean style. Also inside the tent was a workshop on buchae, the art of making a fan. Hanji also is used here.

Daughter of missing French couple seeks help from people here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The daughter of a missing French couple made her way to Costa Rica, and Thursday she asked the people of the country for help. She gave a press conference Thursday morning.

The daughter, Celine Roussel, flew across the Atlantic to try and get closure from the disappearance of her parents. They have been missing for nearly a year.

Her parents, Claude and Gérard Dubois, vanished last March 31 south of Quepos. The retired French couple were tourists, and they had arrived in the town the day before and were taking their rental car south to Dominical for a day trip. That was the last time they were reported being seen.

Ms. Roussel, who speaks only French, said she is pleased with the investigation and understands the complexity of the case. After all investigators didn't have too much to go by, she noted.

The biggest possible break was when the credit cards of the couple were found. But no clear leads resulted from that because investigators said the people who made the illegal
charges on the credit cards are only charged with fraud. They didn't find any direct connections to the case, they said.

Ms. Roussel wants to know what happened. She said what hurts her is that she doesn't know what to tell her little daughter. She said her daughter had a close relationship to her mother, Claude.

A representative of the French Embassy said after nearly a year those connected to the case suppose that the couple was killed. All evidence leads to this conclusion, including the way their belongings and the rented vehicle were found, said the spokesperson.

Ms. Roussel and the French Embassy asked that anyone with the slightest bit of information call the Judicial Investigative Organization in Quepos at 2777-0511. Someone knows what happened to the Dubois couple, they affirmed.

In fact, investigators searched a tract near Quepos last month after a tipster gave a detailed description of the supposed robbery and murder of the couple.

But nothing was found, and agents no longer believe the tale.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Pope Benedict heading
for México and Cuba

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Pope Benedict XVI embarks on a trip to México and Cuba today. It will be the German-born pontiff's first visit to Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America.  The two countries he is visiting have very different religious landscapes.

The Roman Catholic leader, 84 is avoiding the high altitude of Mexico City on the advice of Vatican doctors and will begin his trip in Guanajuato, several hundred kilometers from the capital.  Thousands of security forces will be deployed amid concerns about safety in a country plagued by drug violence.

After México, Benedict will travel to Cuba's second city, Santiago.  He is officially making the trip to honor the national devotion to Our Lady of Charity of Cuba, and to commemorate the miraculous discovery of a statue of the national patroness 400 years ago.

"The pope himself has said that he's coming as a pilgrim of charity, obviously to accompany the people of Cuba during this great time for them," said Rev. Juan Molina, who will accompany the pope in Cuba.  Molina is director of the Latin America office at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.

Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, visited Cuba in 1998, but the country has changed since then, with some increase in religious freedom and economic reforms.  Georgetown University theology professor Chester Gillis notes the differences in Benedict's and John Paul's pontifical styles.

"John Paul II was such a media darling, and so charismatic," Gillis noted. "And Benedict XVI is not.  He is a great intellectual, a deeply spiritual man."

John Paul visited México five times and is revered there.  México is Latin America's largest Spanish-speaking Roman Catholic country, but like other countries in the region, the church there is losing adherents to pentecostal and other evangelical Protestant churches.

Gillis says the Vatican is concerned about the problem, "because that seepage has hurt the church.  Latin America is still very heavily Roman Catholic, but there are places where there have been significant defections from Catholicism."  In some countries more than a quarter of the population is now Protestant.

An estimated 10 percent of Cubans are practicing Roman Catholics, and since the Communist government relaxed restrictions in the 1990s, the church has gained influence.  President Raúl Castro's attitude is different than his brother Fidel, says Philip Peters, a Cuba analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia. 

"A big difference between the relationship between the Catholic Church now and before is that Raúl Castro has a direct dialogue with the Catholic Church.  Fidel Castro didn't," the analyst says. "Fidel Castro tended to talk over the heads of the Cuban bishops to the Vatican."

The Roman Catholic cardinal in Havana, Jaime Ortega, has met repeatedly with Raúl Castro, speaking in favor of economic reforms.  In addition, the church negotiated a deal last year that freed the last 75 prisoners held by Cuba on political charges.

México's high court declines
to free Frenchwoman

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's supreme court has rejected a plea to release a Frenchwoman serving a 60-year prison sentence for kidnapping, but did not dismiss her claims that her rights were violated.

The court voted 3-2 Wednesday against granting Florence Cassez an immediate release from prison, but four of the justices said the case should be reviewed because of evidence of misconduct by police and prosecutors.

"To me, the fact that she was denied consular assistance is enough justification for there to be granted an order protecting her civil rights, as her rights were violated," said Mexican supreme court Justice Olga Sanchez

The 37-year-old Cassez was arrested in 2005 at a ranch near Mexico City with her then-boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, the leader of a notorious kidnapping gang. Police later acknowledged they delayed granting her access to a lawyer and French consular officials. Instead, they forced her to take part in a staged raid that aired live on national television. 

Cassez and the other suspects were arrested hours before the fabricated police raid.

Her lawyer expressed disappointment that she was still in jail, but said the ruling was still a positive development. 

"Four justices have recognized the grave violations in the process against Florence Cassez. There are three justices who for now will consider a stay protecting Cassez. What the outcome will be, we still don't know. But I can expect a clear result - that the conviction of Florence Cassez will be annulled. And we will see then how the debate resumes," said attorney Agustin Acostin.

The case has strained relations between Mexico and France, and shed light on the Central American nation's trouble-plagued legal system.

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cutting-edge projects

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A 17 year old from Fort Gratiot, Michigan, won this year’s Intel Science Talent Search, the oldest and most prestigious science competition for high school students in the United States.

“It’s a great honor and it pushes me to do the things I’ve been doing, that I love to do in my research work in science, my passion for science,” the winner, Nithin Tumma, said.

Tumma won the $100,000 prize for research that could lead to more direct, targeted, effective and less debilitating breast cancer treatments.

During the week-long competition in Washington, D.C., he and his peers defended their work before judges and shared it with the public. President Barrack Obama applauded their achievements during a special meeting at the White House.

The president was not their only audience in Washington.

Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation, which sponsors the event, said it puts a spotlight on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for legislators in Congress.

“We want to influence the influencers, the decision-makers, the people who decide where the money flows to make sure that they understand how critical . . .  education is for our future and for these students’ future,” Ms. Hawkins said.

The projects entered in the Intel competition contribute serious new scientific data and analysis. Jack Li, 18, from El Segundo, California, developed a new way to deliver an enzyme therapy for phenylketonuria, a genetic disease that causes mental retardation and seizures.

With the help of mentors at the University of California, Los Angeles, Li designed a microscopic capsule that seals and protects the therapeutic enzyme as it passes through the digestive system.

“The results were really wonderful," Li said. "The encapsulated version of the enzyme passed through the stomach and the small intestine unscathed, while the unencapsulated version was completely deactivated.”

A drug company has expressed interest in possibly taking Li’s project toward commercial development.

Another finalist, Marian Bechtel, 17, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, engineered a new system for detecting buried landmines, an urgent problem in war zones worldwide.

“They actually kill or injure someone every 22 minutes.” That’s why, she said, “I looked into seismo-acoustics, which is just a fancy word for using sound waves and ground vibrations at the same time.”

Ms. Bechtel’s device is able to scan a field until it finds a resonating sound wave that identifies an object as a likely buried mine and not a rock or other debris.

“My statistical tests showed some really impressive results. It turns out that the method is actually very effective," Ms. Bechtel said. "I have yet to do blind testing and there are still a lot of improvements I want to make before I send it out somewhere. So far it’s showing a lot of potential.”

Ms. Bechtel hopes to publish her work before she heads off to college in a few months.

While neither Ms. Bechtel nor Li won the $100,000 top Intel prize, both were awarded $7,500.

But Li said it’s not about the money, it’s about the science.

“I think the role for us as the next generation of America’s leaders is we need to provoke interest in science among our peers. We need to go out and say, ‘Science is cool. Science is something that is awesome and you should get interested in it.’”

Bechtel agreed, calling science her addiction. “Once you get through it and have those breakthroughs. It’s so amazing. It’s such an amazing feeling. You just keep going back to it. I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to break that addiction to science.”

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